The 2016 legislative session drew to a close just before sundown Friday, concluding 110 days of work in Des Moines. Lawmakers struck the final deals on components of a more than $7.3 billion state budget, but walked away without a more aggressive plan to deal with the state’s water quality problems.
Republican Governor Terry Branstad called it his “top priority” but the two political parties could not agree on how to pay for soil and water conservation projects. Republican Senator David Johnson of Ocheyedan favored an increase in the state sales tax to come up with the money. Johnson predicted voters will be unhappy with inaction.
“I would say to members of both parties, you know you might have choppy waters ahead this fall,” Johnson said.
Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs hopes to form a working group after the November election to come up with a plan.
“Too many people were talking past each other and doing things on their own and I think we need a collaborative process to discuss these issues,” Gronstal said.
The governor vows to keep pressing next year for his plan. It would divert sales tax revenue currently reserved for school infrastructure projects.
“It’s a big and a bold initiative,” Branstad said. “I’m very hopeful that we can get it addressed in the future.”
Branstad is praising legislators for beginning to tackle criminal sentencing reform, to address racial disparities in Iowa’s justice system.
Republican House Speaker Linda Upmeyer of Clear Lake marked the end of the session by listing three accomplishments: “sound budgets, good tax policy and strategic investments.”
The legislature created a new state tax credit for companies that come up with new uses for the byproducts left behind when ethanol and biodiesel are made.
A host of decisions legislators made over the past four months will impact Iowans on a variety of levels. If you live in an apartment or rental home, your landlord must install a carbon monoxide detector. That’s because legislators passed a law requiring carbon monoxide alarms in existing rentals, plus any new home, apartment or condo that’s built after July 1, 2018.
If you’re in prison on a non-violent drug conviction, you might be released early if Governor Branstad approves a bill legislators passed this week.
If you want to have a silencer or suppressor on your gun, that is now legal in Iowa.
Other ideas were discussed, but tabled. Iowa’s medical marijuana law was not expanded. The speed limit on Iowa interstates was not raised. Cell phone use while driving was not outlawed. You still cannot win the big prizes in fantasy sports leagues. And all those backyard fireworks displays are still illegal.